(CNN Spanish) — The president of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, has made a total bet, which for many is risky, to risk it for the country’s peace, which he has called “total peace”, which consists of negotiating with the armed groups that for years have caused the violence that is bleeding the nation dry, with an additional component: making the search for peace a State policy and including the communities with “binding dialogues”.
This week, Danilo Rueda, Colombia’s peace commissioner, reported that ten illegal groups operating in the country have joined the ceasefire in order to achieve “total peace.”
At a press conference in Bogotá, Rueda said that among them are the FARC dissidents now known as the Central General Staff, the Second Marquetalia, among others.
In recent weeks, representatives of the government of Gustavo Petro have been holding exploratory phases with armed groups to achieve what they have called “total peace.”
“If there is a state that is dedicated to putting traps in a peace process that the state itself signed, then it is building violence. It is about putting an end to that. Not anymore,” Petro told Noticias Caracol last week. on the proposal to negotiate with armed groups and compliance with what was negotiated.
We know this about this peace policy of the Petro government.
What is “Total Peace”?
Total peace is a concept created by the government of Gustavo Petro with which it turns the search for peace into a State policy. This includes negotiating peace with illegal armed groups, which bleed the country with violence, massacres and drug trafficking, but also putting the community at the center of these negotiations, since they are the ones in the middle of the confrontation.
“It is a concept that not only implies dialogue simultaneously with illegal armed groups, but also, in some way, breaking with the logic of what the peace processes have been until now in Colombia… which is understood as dialogue between a government and an armed group at a talks table,” said Senator Iván Cepeda, the architect of Total Peace, to the newspaper El Espectador.
Another component is that the peace policy be made a “priority in State affairs” and that it be transversal in all the affairs of the country, said the Minister of the Interior of Colombia, Alfonso Pradaby filing the bill that establishes the rules of the government’s negotiations with armed groups.
“What the bill basically does is make peace policy a state policy,” Prada said. In other words, said Prada, that the peace agreements have a binding nature so that they are not interrupted during their implementation, as happened with the peace agreement in Havana during the government of Iván Duque.
“… That even the peace processes that are underway link the following governments in the continuity of what is a right and a constitutional peace such as the search for peace that is not the exclusive power of a government but a policy constitutional and State”, added Prada.
How will it be achieved?
The bill filed by the government proposes:
- That representatives expressly authorized by the national government can carry out conversations and dialogues with structures or armed groups organized outside the law.
- That through these dialogues a solution to the armed conflict can be reached, International Humanitarian Law effectively applied, human rights respected, hostilities ceased and the members of these violent organizations reincorporated into society.
- Once the agreements begin, the arrest warrants that have been issued or are issued against the representative members of the armed organizations will be suspended, respecting their integrity and security.
- The rights will be the indicators of security, instead of “counting casualties”, as had been done in previous governments, in which the death of alleged guerrillas killed in combat was rewarded, which gave rise to the so-called false positives.
- Compulsory military service will be replaced by “social service for peace”, in which young people must promote digital literacy in rural or urban areas, support victims of the armed conflict, and work for the conservation of nature and biodiversity, among others.
Petro has said that the approach to combating violence is to change the focus of where drug trafficking is attacked.
“That’s not where coca leaves are grown,” Petro said in Noticias Caracol about who the fight against drug trafficking should go against. “It’s where cocaine becomes Colombian money.”
“What we call narco are the troops, the peons, the peasants who have nothing else to do, the children of the peasant… but that is not drug trafficking,” Petro said. “Drug trafficking is about ties and about power, and we have to hit them if we really want there to be peace in Colombia.”
“We are going to hit as it is played,” he added.
Dialogues with armed organizations
The high commissioner for peace said on Wednesday that at least 10 armed groups have already joined a ceasefire. Among them:
- The EMC (Central General Staff)
- The Second Marquetalia, who are dissidents of the Farc
- The Gaitanista Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, also known as the Clan del Golfo
- The Self-Defense Groups of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta
In addition to other armed structures of various capital cities that he did not specify.
“Each group with its own identity and nature and motivation is expressing its willingness to be part of total peace,” wheel said.
“In this exploration phase they have been asked not to kill, not to disappear, not to torture and we are moving forward,” Rueda added this Wednesday at a press conference.
For Petro, this ceasefire “would be the beginning of the end of the violence.” The president said last week from New York that his government has already established contact with members of dissidence. And about the peace negotiations with the ELN, the president said that “we are already in the waiting room”.
However, although the president has made this commitment to peace by talking about a change of focus in the fight against drugs —whose proposal was the central axis of his speech at the United Nations this year—, he has said that for drug trafficking —and with it the violence— is over, there is still time.
“It doesn’t mean it’s going to end, I’m not naive about it,” Petro told Noticias Caracol. · It will only end when prohibition ends and we handle the drug problem as it should be handled: as a public health and prevention problem.
The illegal armed groups, with a presence in remote jungle and mountainous regions of the country, have more than 6,000 combatants, according to security sources cited by Reuters. Both leftist rebels and criminal gangs are involved in extortion, murder, drug trafficking and illegal gold mining, Reuters added.
Criticism and support for this proposal
The renegotiation with the FARC dissidents, who re-armed themselves after the peace agreements signed during the government of President Juan Manuel Santos, generated criticism in some sectors.
One of the most striking was that of the former chief negotiator of the government in Havana, Humberto de la Calle, who said that by renegotiating with the dissidents, those who failed to sign the agreements would be rewarded.
“Reopening negotiations with Iván Marquez promotes the culture of playoffs and sends a harmful message to those who did comply, the committed communities and future negotiations,” de la Calle said last week.
Meanwhile, the opposition party, Democratic Center, said that the Total Peace initiative is an “apology for criminality.”
“The ‘Total Peace Law’ is nothing more than an apology for criminality and impunity, the sense of granting our sovereignty to the generators of violence and a mockery of our legal framework,” , in which they point out as points against the raising of arrest warrants against members of the armed groups, and what they call “clearing zones” for the negotiations, which the government would set up to advance the negotiations or where the armed groups would have a kind of immunity during the dialogues.
But organizations like Human Rights Watch welcomed Petro’s total peace proposal.
“His policy of “total peace”, if properly designed and implemented, could contribute to advances in human rights in these and other regions of Colombia that for decades have suffered serious abuses by all the actors in the armed conflict” says HRW in its letter sent at the end of August.
The organization sent a letter to the president with some recommendations to carry out this project successfully.